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SCRUTINY COMMITTEE (CORPORATE RESOURCES)

 

Minutes of a meeting held on 9th September, 2015.

 

Present:  Councillor M.R. Wilson (Chairman); Councillor Mrs. P. Drake (Vice-Chairman); Councillors H.C. Hamilton, K. Hatton, H.J.W. James, P.G. King, R.A. Penrose, G. Roberts, A.C. Williams and E. Williams.

 

 

373     MINUTES -

 

RECOMMENDED - T H A T the minutes of the meeting held on 21st July, 2015 be approved as a correct record.

 

 

374     DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST -

 

No declarations were received.

 

 

375     SICKNESS ABSENCE REPORT - APRIL 2014 TO MARCH 2015 (REF) -

 

Cabinet, on 27th July, 2015, was presented with a report which provided an update on the Sickness Absence information for the period 1st April, 2014 to 31st March, 2015. 

 

In presenting the item, the Head of Human Resources advised Members that the report set out the sickness absence information for the period and covered both corporate employees and those employed directly by schools.  The outturn figures had been measured against agreed targets for the financial year. 

 

The report also included details of sickness absence figures for the previous period (1st April, 2013 to 31st March, 2014), to assist performance monitoring of sickness over the two years, analyse trends, identify patterns and draw meaningful comparisons. 

 

Total figures for the period April 2014 to March 2015 indicated an increase on last year’s total absence figures, from 8.75 to 9.44 days per full time equivalent (FTE).  This represented an increase in absence of 0.69 days lost per FTE employee.  Overall sickness absence levels for the reporting year had come in marginally above the annual target of 8.9 days/shifts per FTE. 

 

A summary of the absence within each Directorate was detailed within the report with a further breakdown of absence in each service area included at Appendix A. 

 

The top reasons for sickness absence in the Council (including schools) for the period April 2014 to March 2015 were listed, with stress remaining the main reason for days lost through sickness absence, with over 10,000 days lost.  Stress also remained the main reason for long term absences with viral infections remaining the main reasons recorded for short term intermittent absences.

 

In terms of the Council’s response to the rate of absences, the report outlined that in all cases of stress or anxiety, employees would be automatically referred to Occupational Health for advice, offered Counselling support and managers were offered support in completing stress risk assessments.  Stress awareness and stress management training continued to be promoted and offered to both employees to manage personal stress and managers to manage stress within teams. 

 

The provision of Counselling had also been reviewed and it was pleasing to report that this had been extended for another year. 

 

Members would be aware of the Council’s recent commitment to support ‘Time to Change Wales’, the movement to end mental health stigma in Wales.  The Council had signed a pledge to work towards ending the stigma and discrimination faced by people with mental health problems and this included an action plan to track progress. 

 

The Occupational Health provision had been reviewed, with the appointment of a new Occupational Health Nurse Manager in February 2015.  The service was currently being reviewed to ensure a proactive approach to improve and promote general employee wellness, not just supporting employees who were not in work through sickness absence. 

 

The report outlined that Occupational Health was a specialist branch of medicine focusing on the health of employees in the specific workplace and work environment. Their aim would be to determine the impact of work on employee health and ensure they were fit to undertake the role in which they were employed, whilst advising both employees and managers on any adjustments that may need to be made to undertake their role safely and effectively.  The Occupational Health Nurse Manager will be engaging with Chief Officers to determine what they were looking for from their Occupational Health Service, how to best streamline processes and raise the profile of wellness in work.

 

Members were advised that with the anticipation and potential uncertainty surrounding the impact of the Reshaping Services Programme, employee briefing sessions had been arranged for all staff to ensure that all Council employees are engaged with the process, feel involved and supported.  An important part of the engagement sessions was the introduction to the development of a new employee contract and gaining employees' contribution towards creating this.  At the time of writing the report, over 1,300 employees had attended 68 employee briefing sessions.

 

In discussing the level of sickness absences, a Committee Member commented that sickness levels across the Council were not getting better and the Member raised the possibility of a sub-group of the Committee being formed to investigate issues affecting sickness in more detail.  Another Member stated that sickness levels across the whole of Wales had deteriorated and that in the Vale sickness was being reasonably controlled.  The Member expressed the view that it would be better for the individual to be in work and he made reference to the possibility of looking at insurance to support sickness costs.  He explained that this included the use of Occupational Therapists, who would look at ways of adapting a person’s role in order to speed up the recovery process.  In reply to this idea, the Head of Human Resources stated that this was something that would be explored further.

 

Further to the use of Occupational Therapists, a Committee Member commented that the Council had recently reviewed the provision of Occupational Health and that an Occupational Health Business Manager had been appointed fairly recently and that sufficient time should be allowed in order for this role to impact on the level of sickness. 

 

The Chairman then asked four questions.  The first question was whether the high levels of stress within the Council were due to an increase in workloads.  In response, the Head of Human Resources stated that as an organisation, the Council had shrunk and that it was fair to say that workloads had increased.  This was something that that would need to be looked into further by each service area.  The Chairman’s second question also related to stress and was whether levels of sickness were down to managers’ and their roles and functions.  In reply to this question, the Head of Human Resources stated that the Council had really good managers but inevitably the level of support in managing absence could vary. In answering the Chairman’s third question around the rate of sickness absence linked to viral infections, Members were advised that viral infections for the previous two years had remained constant at around 16.5%. 

 

The Chairman also questioned whether there was any merit in increasing the rate of vaccinations for influenza and whether any staff had been absent following the administration of the vaccine.  In reply the Committee was advised that no information around this was collated, but this would be looked into and evaluated.  Also, Members noted that the flu vaccination would be available for staff in 2015/16.

 

A Committee Member commented that he had been part of a task and finish group looking into sickness absences a number of years ago.  During this review it had been highlighted that the main reasons for sickness related to family illness and the need to stay home and care or staff being unhappy or at logger heads with other Members of staff.  The Member stated that it would be good to know the details behind the level of stress and he stated that the Council could not afford the level of sickness absences, which was also likely to increase the workload demands placed on other staff.

 

The Committee expressed the view that it was important for all to Managers to give constant attention to the level of sickness within their service areas and a Member queried whether sickness was a Corporate Management Team (CMT) priority.  In response to this, the Head of Human Resources stated that as a Member of the CMT, he was able to assure Members that the CMT was aware of the issue of sickness and that responsibility for this was taken extremely seriously.   

 

In considering staff morale and staff motivation for coming to work, the Head of Human Resources explained that these were some of the reasons behind the staff engagement sessions.  So far, over 60 sessions had taken place and these had allowed opportunity for the Council to understand the views of staff.  They had also helped the Council to understand what motivates people to come to work and also to develop good working relationships.  Another important development would be the introduction of a new employee contract, which would ensure that staff felt engaged and supported.

 

The Committee also questioned the financial cost of sickness absence, which was not highlighted within the report.  In response, the Head of Human Resources advised that a further cost breakdown would be provided in the next report, which would also include a more detailed analysis of the numbers of full time employees. 

A Committee Member also enquired whether the future report could also include an assessment of the options around preventative measures.

 

Having considered the report, the Committee

 

RECOMMENDED –

 

(1)       T H A T a further report be presented at a future meeting detailing reasons behind the high levels of sickness absences attributed to stress, a cost breakdown of the impact of sickness and the preventative measures being considered.

 

(2)       T H A T the Corporate Management Team recognises the reduction of sickness absences as one of its core priorities.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

(1)       To assess the level of sickness and the cost to the Council and the measures being taken to reduce the sickness rates.

 

(2)       To ensure that sickness absence is a core priority.

 

 

376      REVENUE MONITORING FOR THE PERIOD 1ST APRIL TO 31ST JULY, 2015 (MD) -

 

The Head of Finance advised the Committee that as it was early in the financial year, the forecast for the 2015/16 Revenue Budget was for an outturn within target as set out in table of information contained within the report.  The Housing Revenue Account budget for 2015/16 was also forecast to outturn on target.

 

The Learning and Skills Directorate was aiming to outturn at budget, however, there were significant pressures faced by this Service.

 

In regard to schools the delegated budget relating to schools was expected to balance as any under/overspend would be carried forward by each individual school.

 

In terms of School Improvement and Inclusion, this service was projecting an adverse variance of around £236,000, however, this amount could be off-set by £70,000 funded from the Excluded Pupils Reserves and therefore an adverse variance of £166,000 was currently projected at year end.

 

For the Strategy and Resources budget, this service area was anticipating a favourable variance at year end of £166,000, with favourable variances on the Transport Budget of £65,000, £52,000 on salaries due to part year vacancies and £14,000 due to payments to private nurseries as a result of a reduction in non-maintained nursery settings.  There were significant pressures in relation to the Schools Long Term Supply Scheme, £200,000 adverse variance and the Early Retirement and Voluntary Redundancy Scheme, £113,000 adverse variance, however, both these overspends would be funded from the respective reserves.

 

Provision had been made within the budget to make unsupported borrowing debt repayments in relation to the Schools Investment Strategy of £698,000 per annum and a favourable variance on debt repayments would be directed to the Schools Investment Strategy.

 

The Library Service was projecting an adverse variance of £112,000, however, this amount could be funded from the Library Reserve and therefore a breakeven position was anticipated at year end. 

 

In regard to Adult and Community Learning, this service was projecting an adverse variance of £90,000, however, this amount could be funded from the Adult Community Learning Reserve and therefore a breakeven position was anticipated at year end.  The overspend was due to redundancy and notice payments to staff, which had arisen as a result of reductions in funding from Welsh Government and Cardiff and the Vale College.

 

For the Youth Service, there was a projected adverse variance of £52,000.  However, this amount could be funded from the Youth Service Reserve a breakeven position was therefore currently anticipated. 

 

The Catering Client Budget was projecting an adverse variance of £35,000 which could be funded from the Catering Reserve and once again a breakeven position was anticipated at year end. 

 

All other associated services were anticipated within budget.

 

Social Services were anticipating a projected outturn within budget for 2015/16 but with variances between individual service areas.

 

Children and Young Peoples Services was currently forecasting to outturn £300,000 under budget at year end.  The key issue for this service continued to be managing the demand for the Joint Budget for Residential Placements for Looked After Children, however, currently it was forecast to outturn with a £100,000 underspend at year end.  There were potential underspends elsewhere in Children’s Services of £65,000 on staffing budgets and £135,000 on alternative means of provision and accommodation costs required for the current cohort of children.

 

In respect of Adult Services, this service was currently anticipating to outturn £300,000 over budget at year end mainly due to Community Care packages as a result of increased demand for services particularly for frail older clients.  The annual deferred income budget for 2015/16 had been set at £739,000 and as at 31st July, 2015 income received to date was £18,000 under-recovered.  As it was early in the financial year, the year-end projection was to breakeven against this budget.

 

Visible Services and Housing Services were currently projecting to outturn within target at year end. 

 

Highways Maintenance and Engineering was currently projecting a £40,000 adverse variance against the profiled budget.  This was due to the delay in implementation of car parking charges and street lighting part night switch off.  A car parking charging report had now been approved by Cabinet and the roll out of part night street lighting commenced in July 2015, therefore, the full year savings would not be achieved in both these areas.  However, there were a number of small favourable variances across Highways which could be used to off-set the shortfall in the savings, resulting in a projected overspend at year end of around £100,000.  The original budget for 2015/16 took account of the £619,000 savings required for this financial year. 

 

As for Waste Management, there was currently a favourable variance of £1,000 to the profiled budget.  The main reason for this was the early implementation of the Prosiect Gwyrdd contract which was providing considerable savings for the Waste Disposal budget.  This had however been off-set by a slight delay in the implementation of some of the other savings. 

 

Grounds Maintenance was currently predicting a £19,000 adverse variance against the profiled budget, mainly due to a slight overspend to date on vehicle budgets.  Discussions were ongoing to ascertain if there were further vehicles that were under-utilised with a view of meeting the savings target set.

 

The Council Fund Housing was indicating some savings against the profile on supplies and services and the Temporary Accommodation budget, however, the introduction of Universal Credit during this financial year meant that it was anticipated to increase the level of expenditure on Temporary Accommodation, therefore, currently it was anticipated that the Council Fund Housing Budget would outturn on target.

 

For the Public Sector Housing (HRA) this was expected to outturn on target.

 

Development Services was currently projected to outturn within the target at year end.

 

As for Regulatory Services, Members were advised that the management positions within the Shared Regulatory Service had now been appointed and work was underway to populate the lower tiers of staff.  Work was also ongoing to apportion the costs of the service amongst the partner authorities, Bridgend, Cardiff and the Vale.  At this stage it was anticipated that the Shared Regulatory Service would outturn on target.

 

Private Housing was currently showing a favourable variance of £8,000. 

 

In respect of Planning and Transportation, there was currently a favourable variance of £49,000 to the profiled budget which was mainly due to a higher than budgeted level of planning fee income. 

 

Leisure Services currently showed a favourable variance of £48,000 to the profiled budget and Economic Development showed a favourable variance of £19,000 to the profiled budget.

 

Managing Director - General Policy Budget was projected to outturn within target.

 

The Committee, in referring to the potential £300,000 overspend with the Community Care Package budget in Adult Services, enquired as to what was the total budget for this service area.  Members were advised that the total Community Care Package budget for 2015/16 was over £28m.  Therefore, the potential overspend was a relatively low percentage. 

 

The Committee also queried whether there had been an increase in fly tipping following the introduction of a charge for the collection of bulky household waste items.  The Head of Finance agreed that this would be followed up and information around this would be sent to Members accordingly.

 

Following a query regarding the decrease in income related to the School Improvement and Inclusion Service, the Head of Finance indicated that this was due to a reduction in the number of out of county placements at Ysgol y Deri which had seen 30 less placements this year compared to the previous financial year.  She also confirmed that an action plan had been devised following a review of this service which was part of the Reshaping Services Programme.  She also confirmed that a number of children were in the system longer than they previously would have been and more support was provided for a multiple of health needs. 

 

The Chairman, in terms of savings and the freezing of vacant posts, questioned as to whether this was having an impact on sickness levels and increasing the workload demands of staff.  In answer to these points, the Head of Finance stated that achieving savings through the freezing of posts was not a Council policy.  In addition, Managers were obligated to carefully consider the impact on their staff of any savings identified and Managers, as part of any review, would be need to decide on the appropriate skill mix required within their area of responsibility.

 

Having considered the report the Committee

 

RECOMMENDED - T H A T the position with regard to the Council’s 2015/16 Revenue Budget be noted.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

To monitor the projected revenue outturn for 2015/16. 

 

377     CAPITAL MONITORING REPORT FOR THE PERIOD 1ST APRIL TO 31ST JULY, 2015 (MD) -

 

The purpose of the report was to advise Members of the progress on the 2015/16 Capital Programme for the period 1st April, 2015 to 31st July, 2015.

 

Appendix 1 to the report detailed financial progress on the Capital Programme as at 31st July, 2015. 

 

The Head of Finance indicated that where it was evident that the full year’s budget would not be spent during the year, the relevant officers were required to provide an explanation for the shortfall and this would be reported at the earliest opportunity to Cabinet.

 

Appendix 2 to the report provided non-financial information on capital construction schemes with a budget of over £100,000.  Where a budget shown in Appendix 1 was more than £100,000 but was made up of several schemes that individually were less than £100,000, these schemes were not included in Appendix 2.

 

In respect of Learning and Development the report outlined that for the Victorian Schools project, Emergency Powers had been used to vire the budget of £1.061 million to specific schemes as follows:

 

  • Victoria Primary School: External refurbishment works £270,000
  • Overboarding lath and plaster ceilings £741,000
  • Sandstone repairs £50,000.

 

Emergency Powers had also been used for the inclusion of £8,000 into the Capital Programme for the Ysgol Maes Dyfan marketing scheme.

 

In respect of Education Asset Renewal this budget was agreed by Cabinet on 23rd February, 2015.  Recommendation (3) stated ‘That the Managing Director or Head of Finance, in consultation with the Cabinet Member responsible for finance, be given delegated authority to make additions, deletions or transfers to or from the 2015/16 to 2019/20 Asset Renewal Budgets as appropriate.’  This delegated authority had been used to vire £5,000 from Ysgol Sant Baruc Rewire Scheme to the Peterston-Super-Ely Primary Renew Electric Heaters Scheme.

 

For Visible Services the Asset Renewal Budgets had also been agreed by Cabinet on 23rd February, 2015 and with the use of delegated authority the following had been allocated:

 

  • Coastal infrastructure £50,000
  • Public Conveniences Refurbishment £50,000
  • Highway Structures £150,000
  • Drainage £150,000
  • Traffic Management Measures £100,000
  • Visible Services Highway Improvements £100,000
  • Parks and Grounds Maintenance £200,000.

 

With regard to Development Services Emergency Powers had been used to approve the inclusion of £10,000 in the Capital Programme, for works to Victoria Gardens within the Welsh Government’s Vibrant and Viable Places (Tackling Poverty) Programme.  This would add value to the programme of environmental improvements to Victoria Gardens.  This scheme would be funded from Section 106 monies.

 

For the Court Road Bus Shelter, Emergency Powers had been used to approve the inclusion of £22,000 in the Capital Programme which was funded from Section 106 monies. 

 

To maximise the employment potential of the Glamorgan Heritage Coast, Emergency Powers had been used to approve the inclusion of £98,000 which was 100% grant funded from the Big Lottery Fund. 

 

Innovation Quarter Capital Receipts, again Emergency Powers had been used to approve the inclusion of £396,000 which would be funded by Capital Receipts. 

 

For the Barry Regeneration Partnership, £13,000 had been allocated for feasibility and preliminary design works for High Street/Broad Street traffic management and £12,000 was to be allocated to the former public convenience on the Eastern Promenade, however, the costs of the works had increased due to unforeseen asbestos within the building.  The total cost of the works was now £20,000 and it had therefore been requested to increase the Barry Regeneration Partnership Scheme budget by £8,000 which would be funded by revenue contribution from Visible Services.

 

With regard to Resources, Emergency Powers had been used to approve the inclusion of £90,000 in the capital programme for the Civic Offices Lift.  This scheme would be funded from the Building Fund. 

 

Delegated Authority had been used to increase the Carbon Management Fund by £200,000.  This budget would be used to enable the Council to improve the energy and water efficiency of Council buildings with a maximum 10 year payback period.  The scheme would be funded from the Energy Fund. 

 

In terms of the CASH grants, at year end only part of the underspend was carried forward into 2015/16.  This was insufficient to cover the level of claims now received and it had therefore been requested to increase the CASH grant budget by £8,000 which would be funded via contributions from the Policy Revenue Budget.

 

In terms of variances between actual spend to date and profiled spend, the Committee considered the following.


Cabinet had previously agreed that further information would be provided where schemes had a value of over £500,000 and showed a variance of 20% or more between the actual spend and the profiled budget.

 

The report highlighted that the following schemes met this criteria:

 

  • Penarth Learning Community - amendments to programming/sequencing of works had resulted in actual expenditure that was less than the initial spend profile.  This did not adversely affect the final cost of the project. 
  • Modular Building Resiting Ysgol Dewi Sant - amendments to programming/sequencing of works had resulted in actual expenditure that was more than the initial spend profile.  This did not adversely affect the final cost of the project.
  • WHQS works - there was always likely to be a variance in this expenditure as the extent of the work required in a property was not known until the works commenced.  The individual allocation to each of the schemes for this year was currently being reviewed and delegated authority would shortly be used to update the budget programme.

RECOMMENDED - T H A T Scrutiny Committee note the following recommendations that amend the 2015/16 Capital Programme which have been reported to Cabinet for approval:

 

  • Barry Regeneration Partnership - £13,000 is vired to the High Street/Broad Street Traffic Management Scheme
  • Barry Regeneration Partnership - Increase the Barry Regeneration Partnership Scheme budget by £8,000 funded by a revenue contribution from Visible Services
  • CASH Grants - increase the 2015/16 budget by £8,000 to be funded by a contribution from the Policy revenue budget.

Reason for recommendation

 

To allow the schemes to proceed in the current or future financial years.

 

 

378     OUTCOME AGREEMENT 2013-2016: END OF YEAR REPORT FOR 2014/15 (MD) -

 

The Head of Performance and Development presented the report the purpose of which was to update Members on the progress around the achievement of the Outcome Agreement that was agreed with Welsh Government (WG) on 1st April, 2014. 

 

As a background summary, the report outlined that the Council had entered into four previous agreements with the Welsh Government (Policy Agreements in 2001 - 2004 and 2004-07, an Improvement Agreement in 2008-2010 and an Outcome Agreement in 2010-2013).  These agreements were based on the premise that the Council would share common objectives and that agreements could be entered into to assist in achieving these objectives.  Welsh Government paid a grant to the Council to incentivise achievement of targets, to the value of £1.2 million annually.

 

Under the current agreement covering the period 2013-2016 there were fewer outcomes and 30% of the grant would now be targeted to address known weaknesses rather than giving the Council an unhypothecated reward.

 

The Council was required to report on the delivery of the agreement under Part 1: Outcomes.  This was a self-assessment of the extent to which the Council had delivered against the agreed outcomes.  The Council was not required to report anything under Part 2, Corporate Governance, as Welsh Government would have this information already.

 

Appendix 1 to the report provided details of progress against actions and performance measures, along with a summary of the outcomes achieved.

 

Based on its own self-assessment, the Council had concluded that overall, the Council had been successful in achieving the majority of targets and actions relating to year 2 of the agreement (2014/15).  A scoring of 9/10 was achieved in the outcome section, however, this was provisional pending negotiation with Welsh Government who would undertake their own evaluation upon receipt.  A Welsh Government assessment of between 8-10 points would enable the Council to secure full payment for the outcomes section (70% of £1.2 million). 

 

A small number of targets were not achieved and in those instances proactive action was being proposed to ensure these were achieved for 2015/16.  Quarterly monitoring of progress against Year 3 targets in agreement would ensure performance was brought back on track. 

 

The five outcome areas for the Vale were reported as:

 

  • Outcome 1 - Support the local economy
  • Outcome 2 - Increasing school achievement
  • Outcome 3 - Improving the lives of older people
  • Outcome 4 - Improving social housing
  • Outcome 5 - Reducing landfill.

 

Welsh Government had set aside £31 million for their 2013/15 Outcome Agreement across the whole of Wales.  If the Council was fully successful in achieving its intended outcomes and had no statutory recommendations or interventions over the life of the agreement (2013-2016), the Council could expect to receive £1.2 million each year in an unhypothecated grant.

 

As a final point, the Head of Performance and Development advised Members that Welsh Government had decided to bring a premature end to the Outcome Agreement, so this would be the final year that the money would be paid through the unhypothecated grant.  Details around the future allocation of the £31 million associated with the Agreement, was still to be decided.

 

Following consideration of the report it was

 

RECOMMENDED -

 

(1)       T H A T the achievement of the Year 2 outcomes to date be noted.

 

(2)       T H A T the Scrutiny Committee undertakes closer scrutiny during 2015/16 of those areas where the Council had not achieved its actions and targets, and take proactive action to ensure that they are achieved in 2015/16.  (Appendix 1 pages 8, 9, 14, 17 and 20).

 

Reasons for recommendations

 

(1)       To recognise the achievement of the outcomes listed in the agreement.

 

(2)       To ensure that the Council is fully successful in achieving all agreed outcomes in order for Welsh Government to release the performance incentive grant.

 

 

379     IMPROVEMENT PLAN PART 2: ANNUAL REVIEW OF PERFORMANCE 2014/15 (MD) -

 

The Head of Performance and Development presented the draft Improvement Plan Part 2 - Annual Review of Performance 2014/15, which contained performance and improvement information for Improvement Objectives agreed in April 2014.

 

Members were requested to endorse the Plan and to consider any areas of underperformance. 

 

The Part 2 Improvement Plan (attached at Appendix 1) was a document primarily looking back over 2014/15.  It contained key performance information which helped demonstrate progress towards achievements of the Council’s Improvement Objectives. 

 

Although the Plan was substantially complete, further minor amendments would be required following changes to performance information provided by the Local Government Data Unit and from proof reading. 

 

Based on a self-assessment, it had been concluded that overall the Council had been successful in achieving the majority of the positive outcomes intended in the Council’s Improvement Objectives for 2014/15.  All of the eight Improvement Objectives set for the year were judged to have been achieved, these objectives being as follows:

 

Objective 1 - To improve employability of local people by facilitating learning opportunities, vocational and employment skills.

 

Objective 2 - To increase sustainability and stability of Looked After Children and Young People Placements.

 

Objective 3 - To support more people towards independence.

 

Objective 4 - To support and enhance the town centres of the Vale of Glamorgan for the benefit of residents, visitors and businesses.

 

Objective 5 - To reduce the number of young people who are not in employment, education or training (NEET).

 

Objective 6 - To reduce the time taken to deliver Disabled Facilities Grants for Children and Young People and to adults.

 

Objective 7 - To support and challenge schools in order to improve pupil attainment levels at Key Stages 2, 3 and 4.

 

Objective 8 - To improve the responsive repairs service for tenants.

 

A summary of the conclusions of the eight Improvement Objectives for the Vale was identified in paragraphs 9 - 16 of the report.

 

In referring to the Appendix, the report outlined that pages 85 - 92 detailed how the Council performed against the 2014/15 National Performance Dataset in comparison with the previous year and with other local authorities in Wales.  In total 46 national performance indicators in 2014/15 were reported and of these, 44 had data that could be compared with the previous year.  Key highlights included:

 

  • In total 8 indicators achieved the best possible performance in 2014/15. Of these 8 best performing indicators, 7 continued to maintain their best possible performance (either 100% or 0%) when compared to last year. The indicator that achieved its best possible performance in contrast to last year was EDU/002i, Pupils in school aged 15 that leave education, training or work-based learning without an approved external qualification.  During 2014/15, 0% of children left without any approved qualification whereas the previous year the 0.2% of children left without a qualification.
  • 49% (23) indicators showed an improvement (based on their PI value) during 2014/15. These had remained relatively static compared to last year. 14 of the 23 indicators this year have continued to show an improvement during 2014/15 when compared with the previous year.
  • 13 indicators showed a decline (based on their PI value) during 2014/15, the same number as the previous year. 5 of the 13 measures continued to show a decline during 2014/15.
  • For 4 indicators, performance had previously shown an improvement during 2013/14 but their performance during 2014/15 had remained static. However, 3 of the 4 indicators continued to maintain best possible performance of 100% (EDU/015a, EDU/015b, relating to final statements of SEN issued and SCA/019 relating to adult protection referrals where the risk has been managed). There were also 8 indicators that had previously shown improvement in 2013/14 (based on their PI value) that were now showing a decline in their performance for 2014/15. These related to EDU/006ii (pupils assessed receiving a teacher assessment in Welsh) had dropped from 9.2% in 2012/13 to 8.9% in 2014/15, SCA/002b (rate of older people supported in care homes), this figure had slightly increased from 14.74 per 1,000 population in 2012/13 to 15.70 per 1,000 population in 2014/15 (where an increase indicates that performance was worsening), SCA/020 (adults supported in the community) performance had only slightly dipped by 2.72% compared with the previous year, SCC/045 (reviews of looked after children (LAC) and Children in Need (CIN) carried out in statutory timetable) performance had only slightly dipped by 1.6% compared with last year, SCC/025 (percentage of statutory visits to LAC in accordance with regulations) had shown a very minor decline of 0.8%, PSR/004 (private sector vacant dwellings returned to occupation) there had been a 31.54% drop compared to last year, STS/005b (highways inspected for high or acceptable level of cleanliness) had seen a minor decline of 0.6% and THS/012b (non-principal roads in poor condition), had seen a very minor decline of 0.2%.
  • 8 Indicators during 2014/15 had shown no change in their performance when compared to 2013/14.

 

A breakdown of the Council’s performance in quartiles when compared to Wales was as follows:

 

  • 44% (20) indicators were in the upper quartile of performance, representing a 3% increase on the previous year where 41% (17) indicators were reported in the upper quartile for their performance.
  • 15% (7) of indicators were in the upper middle quartile (2nd) during 2014/15 compared with 7% (3) of indicators in the previous year (2013/14).
  • 20% (9) indicators were in the lower middle quartile for their performance during 2014/15, representing a 9% reduction on the previous year where 29% (12) indicators were reported in the lower middle quartile.
  • 20% (9) indicators had remained in the bottom quartile for their performance during 2014/15 which was the same as the previous year (2013/14). Of these 9 indicators, 7 were previously in the lower quartile for the performance during 2013/14, indicating that there had not been any significant improvements to enable these indicators to move out of the bottom quartile for their performance.

 

Members were further advised that the report had been presented to the Scrutiny Committee (Corporate Resources) as the lead Scrutiny Committee due to the fact that the timetable for publication of the Plan had not allowed all Scrutiny Committees to consider the report.  It was noted however, that the majority of information contained within the Plan had been previously reported to all Scrutiny Committees as part of quarterly and end of year performance reporting and Service Plans.

 

A Committee Member commented that bearing in mind the period of austerity and pressures on resources, Managers and staff should be commended for the Council’s good performance.  The Committee agreed that officers and staff should be congratulated.

 

Further to this point the Committee, in referring to paragraph 7 of the covering report, felt that the wording of this paragraph could more positively reflect the good performances achieved.   The Head of Performance and Development was happy to amend this. 

 

At this juncture, Councillor H.J.W. James indicated that he had a dispensation granted by the Standards Committee to speak on matters relating to the Local Government Data Unit.

 

In referring to page 11 of the Improvement Plan, the Chairman requested more information and detail regarding the Vale’s ‘Clout Score’ (which related to Social Media) and specifically around how this was calculated and how it could be improved.  It was agreed that this would be considered at a future meeting of the Scrutiny Committee.

 

Having considered the report it was subsequently

 

RECOMMENDED -

 

(1)       T H A T the Improvement Plan for 2014/15 be endorsed, and referred to Cabinet and Full Council for consideration and approval.

 

(2)       T H A T Officers and staff be congratulated for the Council’s performance.

 

Reasons for recommendations

 

(1)       To meet the requirements of the Local Government (Wales) Measure to publish an annual review of Council performance and to ensure that action is taken to continually improve.

 

(2)       To offer the Committee’s thanks and appreciation to staff for the good performance achieved.

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